Prelius, Maremma Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino 2009 (Wilson Daniels Ltd., $16): I don’t know a single wine lover who isn’t excited by discovering a terrific wine that is completely new to him, or her. (If that wine is a great value, the excitement doubles.) I am telling you about this white Tuscan wine in that spirit: I had never heard of Prelius, I opened a bottle to drink with an ordinary weekday meal, and I discovered a delicious, well-made and affordable wine that I will be happy to drink again and again.
A bit of research revealed that the Prelius operation, although a newcomer, has a Tuscan pedigree. The wine estate is part of the Volpaia company, based in the nearby Chianti Classico zone. Carlo Mascheroni and Giovanella Stianti Mascheroni, owners of the unique Castello di Volpaia estate in Chianti Classico, purchased the Prelius property in 2007 and presented it to their daughter, Federica, as a wedding gift -- as Giovanella’s father had given the Volpaia property to her for her wedding thirty years before. Federica manages the property with Volpaia vineyard manager and resident winemaker Lorenzo Regoli; consulting winemaker Riccardo Cotarella is also part of the team.
The Prelius estate is situated in the Maremma section of Tuscany. The Maremma is an area that runs along Tuscany’s coast northward from the border between Tuscany and Lazio, the region south of Tuscany. The official Maremma IGT wine region lies within the province of Grosseto, Tuscany’s southernmost major city. Historically, this area featured a coastal lake called Prelius, which was drained during the 18th and 19th centuries, leaving only a small lake today within a national park.
The Prelius vineyards lie less than two miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The 30 acres of vines, planted from 2001 to 2005, grow mainly with red grape varieties -- Cabernet Sauvignon (which occupies more that half the vineyard area), Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The white Vermentino variety covers about five acres of the property.
Vermentino is an aromatic white grape that makes flavorful white wines with rich texture, usually in an unoaked style. Prelius Vermentino is particularly rich and flavorful -- but its high acidity keeps it refreshing. The wine has pronounced aromas and flavors of apple, pineapple, lemon confit and honey. It is dry and fairly full-bodied with a subliminal effect of acidity such that you might not notice the acid until you swallow and find that the wine leaves a fresh, clean impression in your mouth. Concentrated flavors of apple and pineapple linger in the wine’s finish. Typical of Vermentino, the wine’s texture is what you might call “oily.”
Prelius Vermentino is made without oak. The juice spends a brief amount of time in contact with the grapeskins before fermentation, which probably accounts for some of the richness of flavor. Vinification involves no malolactic fermentation, so that the aromas and flavors remain vivid and the acidity remains high. The wine is 13 percent alcohol.
This wine has enough weight and flavor to complement rich dishes, not only grilled fish but also roast chicken, seafood stew, or a simple pork tenderloin roast. More than a simple white wine for summer quaffing, it is ideal now, as the weather moves from winter to spring.